By Don Tapscott
The views expressed are his own.

In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, we need to rethink and redesign many organizations and institutions that have previously served us well but are now beginning to falter. Fortunately, the Internet lets us do this. It slashes collaboration costs and makes possible completely new models of combining people, skills, knowledge and capital for economic and social development. Around the world, individuals and groups are working together, developing new businesses based on peer-to-peer (P2P) collaborative networks.

The financial services industry has always been the antithesis of P2P collaboration. Hierarchy is deeply entrenched in this industry, for good reasons such as security, auditing, and regulatory compliance. But we are now seeing the rise of three types of P2P activities in this sector.

First, financial services companies are moving beyond electronic mail, document management and other primitive technologies to new collaborative software suites like Jive and Moxie Software Spaces, which encourage P2P collaboration within corporate boundaries.

Second, financial services companies themselves are beginning to act as peers, and are collaborating rather than treating one another as superiors or subordinates in the supply chain. This is good. The industry needs a new modus operandi, where all of the key players (including banks, insurers, investment brokers, rating agencies and regulators) embrace principles of transparency, integrity, collaboration and sharing of information. For example, banks should open up financial modeling and make pertinent assumptions and data transparent to all interested parties. Among other things, such P2P collaborations could enable banks to value the trillions of dollars in toxic assets that are weighing down their balance sheets.

But the third and most interesting of P2P innovations in financial services is the growing number of lenders and borrowers connecting directly via the Internet and avoiding the cost and frustration of dealing with banks altogether. The goal is to benefit both the lender and the borrower. For example, if one person is now receiving one percent interest on a savings account and another is paying 29% on a credit card, a mutually-agreed 10% rate is a match made in heaven, giving the lender a tenfold increase in return while affording the borrower a chance to begin paying down the principal.  Typical P2P borrowers want to consolidate debts and pay off credit cards.